Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...
Posted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:30 am
In order to... Attempt... to focus the discussion on the logic and on the ideas, instead of the ad hominem argument that I was indoctrinated, therefore I used confirmation bias, therefore I'm wrong, therefore Christianity is not true... I offer the following scene. I would ahve attached it, but word documents may not be attached. Tiens.
It is used here with the author's permission.
To explain the scene: A young woman has just sat down in a lecture hall for a science lecture. What follows may be a dream...
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Tara’s mind immediately began to drift. She was suddenly in the audience of a stage show of some sort. Four oxblood red leather chairs sat upon a platform atop a stage. They were arranged in a gentle quarter-circle, with a small end table beside each arm.
As yet, the chairs were empty.
From somewhere off-stage, an announcer’s voice came on:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” He cried, “Good Evening and Welcome to Philosopher’s Round Table! Tonight, four esteemed men of letters will face each other in a discussion on the Meaning of Life!”
The announcer sounded oddly like Doctor Winter: booming, melodious, arrogant, and declarative. She wondered what sort of card tricks he had up his sleeve.
“Joining us first tonight will be Frrrrrrrannnnnnz Kafka!” The announcer made him sound like a boxer coming into the ring for a prize fight. “Franz joins us from a publicity event for his recent novella, The Metamorphosis.” Kafka, wearing a large costume of quilted brown cloth, waddled onto the stage. It was wide and flat, and it took Tara a moment to realize that in this get-up, he had been transformed into a huge cockroach. He took the chair farthest right – Stage right, Tara corrected herself: The performer’s left.
The audience laughed, some in humor and some in derision, at the philosopher’s odd outfit. Tara wondered if perhaps some people didn’t get it. The additional legs along his sides did look kind of hokey. And the wire antennae were just weird. She wondered what his publicist had been thinking, putting him in this sort of a get-up.
She tried to guess a setting for the dream. The Metamorphosis was recent? Was this dream set in 1915? She supposed that the stage and the chairs were okay for that period. The appearance of the next guest did nothing to clarify the question.
“Coming to us straight from the fields, where the barley harvest is just ending, I give you the Count himself, the man who put Graf into graph paper, Leo Count Tolllllllllllllstoi!” A bearded man, dressed in Russian peasant clothing – a simple blue shirt and a loose pair of brown trousers, wrapped slightly at the waist in lieu of a belt, strode on from stage left, taking the chair next to Kafka.
There was loose applause.
He took a moment to nervously fluff his full beard – it was square cut at the bottom, and came to the second button of his shirt. It gave him the air of a prophet, or perhaps a Civil War general. He nodded to Kafka, then he brushed a few strands of straw from his trousers. Kafka haughtily ignored the greeting.
Tara tried to remember her European history. August 1914… no, that was Solzhenitsysn… Tolstoy would have been around the Napoleonic wars – 1803? 1812? 1815? Or didn’t he die around 1906 or something? Well, anyway, it sounded like her dream was rather loose with its timeline.
“Aaaaaaaand now…. Coming to us straightaway from his sold out music and poetry tour…” There was a stillness in the crowd, as if they had collectively drawn a breath. “Fresh from Canticle of Canticles, I give you the one, the only …. SOLOMON of JERU-SALEM!!!”
The collective breath became a roar. The crowd clapped, stomped, shouted, and cheered as Solomon, wearing a bright white robe sewn with detailed gold and silver embroidery, took the stage. He strutted proudly to center stage, then turned so that the crowd could see the embroidered pattern on the back of his robe. It was a dazzling image of the First Temple, with real golden threads depicting the gold leafed doors.
Solomon spun back around, winking to young women who were throwing flowers at his sandal-covered feet. Raising one hand into the air, and never taking his eyes from the crowd, Solomon moon-walked backwards to the center-left chair, lowering himself into it and striking a practiced but casual pose.
Women in the front row squealed and swooned. Tara rolled her eyes, or would have if she’d been awake.
Well, that completely blew the timeline out of the water. Solomon of Jerusalem would have lived in the Davidic era, roughly… well, give or take, about 1000 BCE, or roughly 3000 YA. There was no possible stretch in which he could have been on stage with the other two, and yet, there he was, still waving to his admirers as the applause finally faded out.
“Finally, last but not least, the first Cambridge Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Professor and amateur theologian, the ever-popular… C. S. “Jack” Lewis!”
Lewis strode onstage confidently, waved humbly, and took the last of the oxblood leather chairs. He was casually dressed, with a cardigan over a button-down shirt. He drew out a Dublin smoking pipe, looked at it, and then put it back into his pocket. The applause, mild but enthusiastic, drew down to silence.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you now see our panel; it’s time to open tonight’s discussion! But first! A word, from these sponsors…”
In the dream her attention was drawn to a projector screen at the extreme stage right, where a series of commercial announcements passed in front of her. This was a first for Tara. She had often had vivid dreams, but never before had they tried to sell her dubious cooking appliances.
“And we’re back! Before the show, our panel drew straws to see who would open our discussion, and the short straw fell to Solomon.”
There were a couple of shouts from the audience, fans that hadn’t made themselves hoarse at his introduction. Then Solomon smiled. His voice was smooth, and his winsome grin radiated from his handsome face. “There are three things that are never satisfied;” he began,” and four that never say, ‘enough.’ But we shall speak of only one of these tonight: The grave.”
His grin became serious. “What does a man gain, if he spends his life in the most majestic of pursuits, only to die and be forgotten?” He paused, looking to his fellow panelists for comments and support.
Jack cleared his throat. “If I may,” he said, gesturing with the empty pipe, “The Romans had a saying, Memento Mori. It means ‘Remember, you shall die.’ Now, we cannot completely know what it meant to them…”
“It means that this obscene life is an obscene joke!” shouted Franz. “It means that our high philosophical traditions come from the pig sty! That’s what drives a man: Base ambitions and lusts!”
“Franz,” remonstrated Leo, putting his hand on Franz’ arm.
“What I was going to say is that the Great Question of Death certainly leads us to the Great Question of Life.” Jack put the pipe into his mouth, drew once, and then seemed to realize afresh that it contained neither tobacco nor fire.
“And that was my point,” said Solomon, smoothly inserting his mellifluous voice into the argument, soothing the rough tones and pulling them to his thesis. “If we know that we are going to die, then how shall we live?”
“It doesn’t matter how we live,” roared Franz, his face coloring. “Suppose the Emperor of China, on his deathbed, gasped an important message into the ear of his messenger. A message for you, for your ears alone! Do you think you would ever hear it? Fighting his way across the royal chamber, then through the crowded outer chamber, then down the stairs, and out into the crowded courtyard, and finally into the second great courtyard – each exponentially larger…”
“We understand,” said Leo. “The task of living is daunting. We squander our lives, because we do not know what they are for.”
“We were given the choice of being kings or messengers, and as children will, we chose to be messengers – all of us, with no kings. So now we run to and fro, shouting meaningless messages to each other – messages from no one!” shouted Franz.
“That’s not to say that there is no King,” said Solomon. A few in the crowd tittered at this, supposing that he meant himself. “That is to say, life can have meaning, despite these paradoxes.”
Leo cleared his throat. “Franz, we all experienced these things. We were all frustrated. We all wondered what it was all about. Every one of us has questioned the purpose of being. I used to awaken suddenly and say to myself, ‘How do you justify your existence? Are you supposed to do something before you die? And if so what?’ All of the pursuits of this life are meaningless and void.” Leo’s eyes became distant.
“Vanity of Vanities,” sung Solomon softly, under his voice, but loud enough for the microphones to carry it into the crowd. “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity; All is vanity says the preacher, in Je-ru-salem.”
The crowd gasped and then clapped. Solomon waved them down.
“All the rivers run into the sea,” said Leo, nodding to Solomon, “And yet the seas are not full.”
“The eye is not filled with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.” Jack repeated another line from the song.
“Sycophants,” hissed Franz. “I know what you all are. You’re just more groomsmen, climbing from the pigsty. All your powerful emotions are just misplaced lusts. Carnal fleshly lusts, that’s all that lies beneath.”
“I pursued the Question of Life,” said Solomon. “I sought it in many places: In greatness, in poverty, in solemn study and in drunken revelry; in the having of many wives and in the solitude of the gardens; in public works and in personal pleasures; in reading and in writing and in all possible goals. And it all comes down to this: Striving after the wind.”
“So then how are we supposed to be happy with this, this, ongoing charade?” boiled Franz. “What precisely do you propose that we do?”
“The happiest a man can be is to enjoy his work and to do it faithfully, eating enough, sleeping enough, and spending time with his beloved family,” answered Solomon. “But the only way to achieve that sort of happiness is to serve God.”
“See! See! I knew you were merely salesmen, a front for that old religious babble! Get to the root of your philosophy, and there is that terrible Old Man, ready to strike down the infidels! Ha!”
“Allow me to clarify,” said Leo. “I, too, pursued all sorts of meanings for life. I studied, and I wrote, and I taught others: those whom I felt were my intellectual inferiors. I taught them about what Life is like, even though I had no idea.
“I was like a man who runs from a bear, and leaps into an old well to take shelter. But falling, he sees at the bottom a dragon, waiting to eat him. He seizes a root that is growing into the well, and he braces himself, dangling midway between the bear above, and the dragon below.”
“Precarious,” remarked Jack.
“Ah, but that is not the worst. He is clinging to this root, but as his eyes adjust, he sees a pair of mice, one white and one black. They gnaw away at this root, night and day, so that eventually he will fall to certain death below. But the bear has smashed a beehive, up above, and a bit of the honey trickles down into the well, dripping onto the root. He is able to suck a tiny bit of sweet honey from the root, you see, and he tells himself, ‘Ah, this is the joy of life!’
“And that was me; I was dangling above my own eventual death, watching as every night and every day gnawed away my one support, my life. Telling myself that the few tiny pleasures I was able to glean were the meaning of my life – that they were so sweet that they made the rest, the inevitable doom, cease to matter.
“Worse: I taught others this doctrine. In my adamantly shameless pride, I dared to teach others what I myself did not know. Looking back, I am ashamed of the pompous fool that I once was!”
“You’re a pompous fool even now!” shouted Franz.
“Franz!” rebuked Jack. Franz scowled and leaned back in his chair, as far as his costume would allow.
“A fool I may be,” said Leo. “But I finally figured out the one bridge between the finite and the infinite. It is the church.”
“And at a certain point,” added Jack, “We must all throw ourselves into the arms of Old Mother Kirk.”
“But not blindly.” The Count’s long, narrow finger stood like a knife before him. “We do not blindly cross this bridge.”
“One moment,” said Solomon. “I hear what you’re saying, but to clarify: You do not mean that in the Church, they speak of numinous things, and therefore what the Church says is true.”
“No, no, no,” replied Leo. “Not that, certainly not that. I am saying that there are numinous things. There are questions bigger than we are. The fact that we feel that there is a purpose that we must fulfill means that there does exist such a purpose.”
“Mankind is the only creature afraid of the bones of its own kind," observed Jack.
“He has set eternity into our hearts,” sang Solomon, softly.
“Indeed,” answered Jack. “We thirst for water, and this thirst has a solution, which is water. For every physical human thirst, there is a physical object: Water for thirst, food for hunger, warmth for cold, a scratch for an itch. But for the spiritual hungers, there does not seem to be a spiritual object, or not outside the Church.”
“This is why I say, there is one bridge between the finite and the infinite.” Leo smiled.
“What do you know of physical needs?” scoffed Franz. “Has your coal bucket ever been so empty, so light, that you could sit in it and fly?”
“You focus on the wrong things, Franz,” said Solomon. “You allow the existence of physical things to distract you from spiritual things.”
“There are no spiritual things,” cried Franz. “Don’t you see that? All we have is this silly, useless life; this charade of being!”
“I agree with you in one part,” said Jack. “We are poorly fitted for this life. We hunger for things we cannot have, such as perfect justice.”
“There! There! We agree on a single point. Let me tell you of justice: Imagine a man who goes to see the judge, to obtain justice for his case. He spends his life trying to gain admittance, and is barred from even passing through the door. But when he finally dies, he finds that the door was only ever meant for him. Where is the justice? There is no earthly justice!”
“Yes, precisely.” Jack leaned forward and pointed the pipe-stem towards Franz. “And there is the point. There is no justice to satisfy our desire for justice. But if every physical desire has a physical analog that satisfies it, can we not therefore conclude that there does exist perfect justice? And since that justice cannot be obtained in this life, is it not also clear that we were made for a different world, in which such justice can be obtained?”
Franz shrieked in frustration, and leaping to his feet, he tore away his costume. Beneath it he wore only a red union suit, and in just that undergarment he stomped away stage left, past the panelists and out among the curtains.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” came the dulcet tones of the announcer, “With the departure of Franz Kafka, we seem to have come to the end of our discussion. To occupy the remaining time, Solomon has graciously agreed to give us a sneak peek at his upcoming album, already pre-sold in the tens of thousands, to be called, Ecclesiastes!”
The lights faded to a single spotlight, and Solomon stepped into it, the gold and silver from his robe sending sparkling shimmering pinpoints of light across the crowd. A murmur of excited anticipation rippled around the room in waves. A lyre began to play offstage, and Solomon nodded in time as he waited for his cue, holding the microphone near his chest. His eyes closed.
“My beloved, my beloved;” he sang, as the women in the crowd screeched and swooned, “I extended my hand to my beloved…”
And suddenly Tara was being pulled back through the misty crowd, and the music faded into silence. She awoke in the lecture hall, as Dr. Winter wrapped up what had clearly been a clever demonstration of physical principles.
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From _The Atheist's Tale_, (c) 2015 by Og Keep, all rights reserved. Excerpt used by permission.